The Mummy story continues with Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Many of the franchise’s common ingredients are there: Brendan Fraser as the courageous explorer Rick O’Connell, John Hannah as the bumbling brother Jonathan, an all-powerful mummy, and ILM special effects. Any similarities to the last two films end there.
This story begins with Rick and Evelyn attempting to enjoy their retirement from field archaeology. Rick hooks himself while fishing and Evelyn has been writing successful books based on their mummy adventures. Of course, both secretly miss the thrill of their past. Their boredom is interrupted when their grown-up and reckless son Alex awakens an ancient Chinese mummy that is able to control earth, wind, water and fire. Much like in Spielberg’s latest Indiana Jones film, a large part of the story deals with the family melodrama and bickering that happens between parents and children. Along the way Alex manages to even fall in love with an immortal woman (played by Isabella Leong) who is also on a quest to destroy the Dragon Emperor.
The first two films found an ideal balance of comedy and action, which Brenda Fraser still delivers here, but with much worse material to work with. The absence of Rachel Weisz as Evelyn is felt, especially with her replacement (Maria Bello) having a much different accent and tone. They did humorously joke about her absence when Evelyn explains at a book reading that “I can honestly say that the character in my mummy novel is not based on me.” And I can honestly say that the sloppy writing is disappointing in this plot. Despite some initial character development during the film’s first hour, especially between the O’Conner family, the last half is a mismatch of gorgeous special effects and laughable action sequences where there seems to be absolutely no rules and anything goes. Even the mountain yetis get involved to fight the mummies.
The Mummy franchise has always been a popcorn summer movie. The audience doesn’t expect much. Unfortunately, even Tomb of the Dragon Emperor fails to meet these lowered expectations and is the weakest chapter in this successful trilogy.